Star Wars returns with a shallow but fun romp featuring some of its most iconic characters. It probably won’t stay with you for very long, but you’ll enjoy it while you watch it.
Seems like we’ve just been to this galaxy not too long, long ago, but Star Wars is back. Did you ever wonder how Han Solo came to be a smuggler? How he and Chewbacca met? How Woody Harrelson would look in a Star Wars costume? Well, then do they have the movie for you.
Solo: A Star Wars Story, as expected, follows the titular character made famous by Harrison Ford, Han Solo, as he makes his way up from humble beginnings as a young street criminal and gets caught up with a more experienced band of thieves and smugglers. It’s in a small part an origin story, but quickly moves on to be mostly just a series of Star Wars-themed heists. Not quite as sophisticated as the best films in the genre such as Ronin, Heat, or even The Italian Job, but it packs on the fun and the Star Wars elements. And that’s what matters for a summer action movie. “Star Wars themed” is probably the best description for this movie. It definitely feels very “Star Warsy” to me, in a way that has been missing from all of the Disney films except Rogue One, and definitely missing in the prequel trilogy. And when I say that, I just mean in the way the universe looks and feels that mimics that movie magic that George Lucas captivated the cultural consciousness with forty years ago. The planets of Solo: A Star Wars Story feel lived-in and alive. The galaxy is a little forbidding and dark, a place where the bad guys have prevailed, but maybe there’s a glimmer of home for the good guys. So when I say that it’s a lot of “Star Wars themed” stuff, that’s a compliment.
Taking over Han Solo’s boots is Alden Ehrenreich, a name I will probably never not have to Google to make sure I spelled correctly. While there was a ton of Internet buzz about acting coaches and reshoots, he does a fine job in the role. I don’t think anyone will ever have an easy time being Han Solo after Ford, but Ehrenreich pulls off most of Han Solo’s charm and cockiness. The best performance of the film lies predictably with Donald Glover, and he captures the essence of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian. It’s just a shame the Lando part doesn’t get more screen time and the role doesn’t have a lot of meat on it. But Glover plays the character with the right amount of charm, and I’d probably watch a Lando movie with him as the lead, though without his sidekick.
To the relief of many including myself, Solo: A Star Wars story also sidesteps the pitfalls that The Last Jedi did with tone. While I found The Last Jedi to be more or less fun, one of the biggest problems I had with that film was the inconsistent tone and inappropriate humor. It didn’t know when to be funny, and when to be serious. Solo gets this right for the most part. The humor in this Star Wars movie once again feels more organic to the scenes and the characters, and doesn’t feel like it’s been forced into a scene, most of the time. There’s a single character in the movie that I found somewhat irritating, and the schtick they gave her falls flat, but she doesn’t have a ton of screen time, fortunately.
But what really matters is that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good time. It doesn’t feel too long, the humor doesn’t feel forced, and it hits all the notes you hope for in a Star Wars film.
All this said, the movie just doesn’t end up very memorable. It lacks any defining scenes or characters. While the planets look and feel like Star Wars planets similar to the ones in the original trilogy, they just kind of feel like “stops” rather than destinations. These are sets, not places. The score often feels muted and it’s definitely uninteresting aside from when Powell occasionally co-opts elements from Williams’ classics. So while you can easily coast along in your seat enjoying the ride, this isn’t going to be a film you remember down the line. Han Solo’s origin story just isn’t that compelling, and neither are any of the supporting cast that you didn’t already know. But maybe that’s just what Star Wars is now. It’s not an Event Movie anymore. You don’t anxiously await the next one, but you probably go see it when it comes out if you like Star Wars.
So a score? I liked this. I’ve given up trying to figure out what Star Wars fans like. I think there will be elements of the third act that will be controversial with the hardcore Star Wars fans. I don’t think most people will care, or even notice. So let’s say 3 out of 4 stars. I liked this movie. It’s not great. It’s not memorable. But it will find a comfortable place in the Star Wars canon, neither memorable to the casual viewer, nor overly offensive to Star Wars fans (I think).
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in wide release on May 25th.